Women’s History Month — Do we need it?


Why do we have to differentiate between women’s history and history in general? After all, history represents all humankind, doesn’t it? 

Such is la question du jour this month in some corners — the blogosphere, especially. 

Well …

Women are still underrepresented in history books — the majority is the minority in this case. Yet, there are many stories about women who changed the course of history, from Dr. Mae Jemison to Indira Gandhi to Amelia Earhart to Rosa Parks. And many more.

At my son’s school, where I volunteer from time to time, I see little to no recognition of the month’s existence. Or women in history.

I see no evidence that names like Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, or Sally Rides have influenced institutions and businesses to honor women and our work — with equality. While women are represented in just about every field and industry, very few occupy important roles. The positions that matter.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, women hold 78 of 435 seats. Good number, but is it enough?

For this reason, one must be forgiven for wondering: Since we insist on having a Women’s History Month, is it effective?

Molly Murphy MacGregor, co-founder of NWHP, wrote: “…in the 1980s, kids could not identify Sojourner Truth or Susan B. Anthony or Rosa Parks. That has changed. The change is not where we want it to be, but where we are going …”

What do you think? Are we moving at a snail’s pace when it comes to factual equality? Is the cry for equality just noise?


Image: women in history educational assembly program, mobileedproductions.com

15 responses to “Women’s History Month — Do we need it?

  1. Yes, I think we are moving at a snail’s pace. Women are still fighting (in America, no less) for equal pay. We are a long way, I think, from differentiating from women’s history month and history in general. Just as we still have women’s fiction rather than just fiction. We must never stop for equality.

  2. Women are the original second-class citizens. We’ve been discriminated against since before there was enough interaction between races to create racism; since before there were nations to create a sense of identity that people would then use to justify an Us vs Them attitude; since before there were enough religions to cause disagreements. We’ve been discriminated against since the beginning of time, for–well, for not being men. One has to wonder what kind of world we’d live in today if those first women had stood up for themselves, had established zero tolerance for being treated differently.

    I don’t know if we need a Women’s History month. I don’t know if it serves a purpose, if anything will change because of it. What I do know is that the fact that there’s such a month underlines the inequality. Will that underlining, that “creating awareness”, help to solve the problem? Information is a powerful thing, yes, but at the bottom of this is the fact that women everywhere continue to accept being treated as second-class citizens. We can keep blaming men, asking for better salaries, asking for respect, for equality, but the core issue is that the responsibility lies with us.

    Great post, Silvia.

    • Thanks, Guilie, for such a thoughtful comment. You make blogging fun. You’re right here. The power of decision is within us. Those first women didn’t establish zero tolerance, for whatever reason. Yet so many did fight. Hard. Many continue to work hard, establish themselves, go against the tide in defense of their principles. Successful women I know work twice (or three times) as hard to get 60% the recognition men get. Not reaching the pinnacle, in many cases, is not for lack of trying. Or for lack of recognizing where the responsibility lies. It’s the burden of history — I think. A history that, as you said, goes far beyond what’s in the books. Thanks again for reading and for so wonderfully answering my question!

  3. At one time it seemed that there were months for everything, then weeks, and now also days. I absolutely agree that there should be a month for recognition of women and the contributions made by so many. It should be as important as Black History Month which is February.

  4. Great post Sylvia thank you! Gulie hit the nail on the head I think in that women have colluded to a certain extent in being treated as 2nd class citizens. Oppression has played its role yes… but it requires a collusion to be oppressed. Of course it’s not as simple as that. Be the change you want to be is also simplistic… but we have to start somewhere. And, if we are parents, we are charged with responsibility in teaching our young ones about fairness, non sexist behaviour, etc.

  5. This is a tough question, Sylvia. Having attended a women’s college in the 60s, I definitely benefited from the focus on women’s rights and the encouragement of women’s participation in the workplace (sounds sort of nuts, now, doesn’t it?). We’ve made great strides, but now comes the really hard work, breaking the glass ceilings where they have persisted and pushing for equal pay. Does having a Women’s History (or Herstory) Month help? I’m not sure. My daughter grew up accepting that her worth was equal to that of a man, and that she could accomplish her goals by working hard and having confidence in her abilities. She knows that is not always true, but it’s not stopping her. Women’s History Month didn’t do that – her parents did!

  6. I totally agree with Carol and Susan!

  7. As a teacher, I think women’s history month needs to remain. Without it, I fear that women’s historical achievements would be all but glazed over. Is it making a difference? I would say that it is–at least enough that we ought to continue. Maybe one fine day we can have just HISTORY, comprised of black history, women’s history, and the rest of history. Women’s History Month is just the continuation of our fight for equality, and it is a worthwhile fight indeed.

  8. History has been a mysterious subject for me as most of the times I ended up having a manipulated version of someone about someone.
    As Ma’m Margaret Thatcher rightly quoted “If you want something spoken about, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” Guess that explains the absence of the glories of womanhood in history!
    As far as the factual equality is concerned, still we need to walk the talk!

  9. We are moving at a snail’s pace. I’m ready for a Herstory (vs. History) production.

  10. Hi Silvia .. as your commenters have said – we probably shouldn’t need to separate ourselves out – yet if we go with this flow … then at least women’s names are appearing in the forefront along the journey of life.

    We can pick women who have achieved something and highlight them to others .. we don’t seem to really progress .. but is it that men don’t change and aren’t prepared to ..

    Very interesting post and thoughts all round … we’re here and they need us more than we need them?! Cheers to all women .. Hilary

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